Coronavirus Sheds Light on Need for Telemedicine

Telemedicine was already one of the fastest-growing trends in healthcare, when it got a big boost recently due to the coronavirus pandemic. Telemedicine is a means of practicing health care from a distance using telecommunication technologies such as video conferencing, to give patients options beyond the traditional doctor’s office visit. Under the $8.3 billion emergency funding measure from Congress, restrictions were loosened on the use of telemedicine to treat people covered under the federal Medicare program. The federal government is expanding its efforts to use telemedicine under Medicare to keep people from spreading the disease. Healthcare providers across the country are now looking at how connected care programs can be used to stem the threat of the virus. Telemedicine (also called telehealth) enables healthcare providers to treat isolated patients thus preventing the spread of this highly contagious virus. In a meeting at the White House, private health insurers also told the New York Times that they would pay for virtual visits for people who may have coronavirus to improve access to care for their customers.

Lee Health and other large hospitals across the country are also quickly expanding the use of telemedicine to safely screen and treat patients for the coronavirus, while containing the spread of infection by offering these remote services. Healthcare officials see this as a kind of turning point for virtual health as this is the first time we are actually seeing how it can be used during a public health crisis.

Here’s a great example of how telemedicine was recently used to prevent the spread of the corona virus. The New York Times published a recent article about how Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recently used telemedicine to help screen patients for coronavirus. To put it simply, individuals were urged to use their phone or computer to get guidance about whether or not their symptoms pointed to whether they needed to be tested for coronavirus or not, instead of having them just show up unannounced to the emergency room or their primary care physician’s office. This way they avoided crowded waiting rooms and the potential to catch the virus or pass it along if they had it. For example, before admitting a student last week who was believed to have the virus, because he had called the telemedicine hotline first, the hospital was able to prepare for his arrival by clearing the ambulance bay of people to protect patients and hospital staff. He was taken immediately to an isolation room where he was examined by a physician and nurse in protective gear and tested for the virus. He tested positive. But due to using telemedicine first, Rush was able to avoid the problem other hospitals have had where patients with Covid-19 unfortunately just showed up in ER which led to a widespread quarantine of health care workers (those we desperately need on the front lines of this disease).

The idea of using telemedicine during this pandemic is simply to keep those who are well but worried, calm, and to keep those who are most at risk from infecting others while providing them with the proper treatment. Infectious disease specialists feel telemedicine is critical for management of this pandemic. It is also critical for those with chronic medical conditions because we can treat them at home for their pre-existing conditions, keeping them from taking the risk of going to places where they could be contaminated.

Luckily, here at PremierMD Care, we’ve been offering telemedical services to our concierge patients for quite some time now. We like to stay on the cutting edge of medicine to be able to provide the best for our patients. Often stated as one of the keys to helping drive down the cost of healthcare, telemedicine technology can improve patient’s access to care, enable better patient to physician engagement and even better physician-to-physician engagement. And that’s one of the reasons we’ve chosen to have telemedicine be a part of our concierge physician practice. On top of that, we know you live busy lives, and we know some of you are snowbirds who aren’t in Southwest Florida full time, but still need a primary care doctor you can count on. By providing telemedical services, we can still be your primary care physician, even when you are back living up North.

Telemedicine is allowing doctors to bridge the gap in communications with their patients and with other doctors. Doctors get more time to review individual cases by being able to be supported by external physicians and specialists and patients feel more in control of their health checkups. About 53% of patients surveyed said that telemedicine somewhat or significantly increases their involvement in treatment decisions.

We’ve found that virtual visits reassure our patients that we are available to them and involved in their care. It makes it easier for them to reach out with questions, report early warning signs for larger issues and it offers a much more patient-centered approach to healthcare. Real-time urgent care consultations done via telemedicine allows healthcare issues to be addressed quickly and our patients can learn about their treatment options in minutes. In fact, a recent study showed that telemedicine patients score lower for depression, anxiety, and stress and have 38% fewer hospital admissions.

We look forward to being your primary care physician. Call us today to find out how our telemedical services work, and about how our concierge medical practice can help you today! (239) 500-6363!